Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Where Have All The Bloggers Gone...?

I just finished reading a post that spurred me to write this one. The post deals with the writer’s growing despair over the fruitlessness of her blog. She started her AOL journal apparently with the intention of making a worthy contribution to a chosen cause. But, she has all but "given up" the blog, due to lack of readership, lack of response, the feeling that she’s just one of many small voices out there piping up about the same issues…none of which have discovered the right combination of words or ideas to really spark forward movement in the battle. I’m sorry she’s discouraged. Her journal has spurred me to action in many small ways. Too small, apparently, to make it worth her time to continue. I don’t mean to pick on a fellow journaler. Who can write when the inspiration is gone? But I feel somehow diminished by her decision.

This "brain drain" from AOL journal land is reaching a dangerous crescendo. Last month, I posted an entry remarking on the growing numbers of journalers who where hanging up their pens (keyboards?) That entry got twice as many comments as most of my posts…people assuring me they weren’t going anywhere…people expressing relief that I wasn’t going anywhere… Yet the attrition has continued. Part of it, I’m sure, is that folks—especially in the East and Midwest—are busy crawling out from hibernation after a particularly brutal winter. Easy enough to sit and clickety-click the hours away when it’s blizzarding outside, but who wouldn’t want to get outside and stretch their legs and their souls once Spring finally beats Winter into submission?

The tragic part of the mass exodus is the writers who are cashing it in because they believe no one is listening, or that those of us who ARE listening are not important enough to keep them engaged. Many of the more compelling voices in journal land come from the world of academia. Their entire lives are played out among people who share their beliefs, concerns, and value systems. They can network with folks like themselves simply by stopping for a conversation in the lunch room or by picking up the phone. They don’t need the ethereal connection of the blogosphere to know that their beliefs have not alienated them from the world to the point of bitter isolation.

But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who inhabit quiet little two-horse towns, where our political and social beliefs would land us in the pillory or worse, if suchthings still existed? What about those of us who, for whatever reason, have not been able to rise to the challenges of our intellect, and are stuck in unfulfilling jobs where the buzz at the water cooler revolves around reality tv and which cubicle drone is sleeping with whom? What about those of us who are starved for intelligent voices of reason, the likes of which have been culled from the audio and video airwaves? Apparently, there are too few of us to bother with. We don’t constitute much of a market, so no one feels the need to connect with us.

"Coming to Terms…" started out as sort of an "S.O.S." for me. I had to find a way to let someone into the world inside my head, or implode. Eventually, I met with a sort of limited success. Connected with a core group of three or four women who read my ramblings, chanted responses to the questions in my head that had, up until that time, been merely rhetorical cries to the universe. And I, in turn, would go to their journals…counsel when I felt I could, agree enthusiastically with things I never knew I believed till I saw them written with someone else’s hand, click out the "atta-boys" when someone stretched beyond themselves and did good. I became a member of a community, and I thrived in it.

I may have stuck my foot in that success, though, when I started posting political rants before last year’s election. I found I had a gift for it, and a NEED for it, so I have just kept at it. Unfortunately, some of my most cherished journal friends did not want to go there. I can respect that…political and religious controversy are two of the surest ways to kill friendships. But I have gone to the point of no return with the political opinion pieces. They are part of who I am. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to quit posting pieces about other aspects of my life, either. It seems you get no respect in journal land if your blog is not "about" something. Apparently, one’s life can only be "about" one thing at a time. So, here I am now, neither fish nor fowl. Too opinionated for the ladies that just want to write about relationships, kids, and tv shows, and not sophisticated enough for the political movers and shakers. How like me to finally find a community, then kick myself out of it!

What is the point of all this? Am I going? Am I staying? Am I mad at everyone who is leaving? I don’t know. I have no intention of quitting journal land. As I have said over and over again, I will always need to write. And this is as good a place as any to do that. But it used to be better. And it makes me sad that we so longer seem to understand the value that the sense of community had for us. Perhaps I just measure the worth of journal land with a different scale than everyone else uses. I hope I don’t have to abandon the venue in order to find what is fast slipping away from us here. If it indeed does exist anywhere, which I am beginning to doubt…


  1. Could you post the web address of the seldom visited blog here? I'd like to visit it, give some encouragement about the value of journaling even if no one ever reads it. It is a great way to clarify your own thoughts, to gain insight by imposing structure on the usually chaotic and fragmented internal dialogue.
    I started a journal as a way to keep in touch with 3 friends who live more than 100 miles away, sometimes waxing philosophical on the issues of the day, most often just talking about my most recent adventure, and although few if any others read it, I enjoy the journaling. It's fun to look back at where I've been.

  2. Sorry you're feeling this way.  I haven't ever gotten the feeling here that our journals had to be about something to be worthy of readership.  I guess I should clarify that, I've never felt as though anyone is pigeon-holing me into one category or another and if they are, that's their deal, not mine.  I think we can forget that those of us who do concentrate on recounting tales of the family also can be highly educated, and opinionated on religious and politics, but as you stated yourself, I think we all know where our strengths lie and if writing about politics comes as natural to you as breathing, then I say, go for it and don't look back.  For me, writing small snippets of my life without spending too much time laboring over what I am writing is what I enjoy and for me to continue to enjoy writing, I have to do what makes me happy.  I have toyed with the idea of removing comments from my journal off and on for a while.  I think it would be freeing to me not to have any comments sometimes and I do not mean this to be disrespectful to people who comment in my journal.  I just feel that we tend to measure our worth sometimes by how many hits we get or comments we receive and that if we remove that, then we simply write.  

    Lisa, I have always said that I would continue to write regardless of whether or not people are reading it and the longer I keep my journal, the more I believe this to be true.  The longer I have my journal, the more it feels like a part of me that I don't want to give up, that I WON'T give up.  My life is busier now and I feel as though I do not comment as religiously as I once did, but I DO continue to read every journal that I find interesting, funny, thought-provoking, heart-breaking.  I'm sorry some of your friends are leaving.  You still have me (and I know how MUCH this comforts you)...

  3. Hi Lisa,
    You do have such an immense gift for political writing. Do you know how many of your entries Iv'e saved and I read over and over? A lot! I am also writing here and there about political issues and dealing with a chosen few journalers who "disagree" or post irrelevant comments. They seem to not want to get involved, which is cool. But it's like my Mom used to say, 'If you can't say something nice (on someone else's journal) don't say anything at all'. I would rather hear silence, than an arguement, truly I would. But I adore your politcal writings and you are a gifted writer.
    I also agree that the AOL "community" is changing and it has changed, not for the good. I will always be loyal to your journal because I personally enjoy it.

    Take care,

  4. There's no doubt about it that our journal community has changed drastically.  We've lost some great journalists and some of my favorite reads have just quit writing, without explanation.  I too am bothered by that, but perhaps there weren't enough comments to make them feel that they've said something worthwhile, maybe they're just too busy, there are crises in their lives, or they've just lost interest for awhile.  I have lots of days without any inspiration and I know I've done my best writing when in the depths of despair, that I believe I am crawling out of...finally.  It makes me wonder if I'll have any readers at all writing about the mundane aspects of a fairly happy life.  But, regardless, I plod along, because I want that history recorded for me, and for my loved ones, who I hope will one day read it with interest.  I have to leave the words of political and other passionate causes to you and those who can provide me with thought provoking ideas and opinions to cause me to grow, when I'd rather be sitting here playing with graphics!

    I've been surprised to find some fun comments from some folks that I never, ever expected to happen by this journal and perhaps they read it regularly...I just don't know.  If so, that's special to me because I find their journals so awesome.   I think we'll continue to have a core of people who just enjoy this community and will stay because of the friendships and the genuine caring attitude of people just like you...and me!  Then we'll just welcome more as they come.   Hugs, and keep writing!  Lisa  

  5. A clarification to my below entry..."This" journal means mine!  Not yours as the sentence implies!  Sorry.  Lisa

  6. I agree that the blogs with the most consistent readership are probably more "about" one topic than about the author's multifaceted life.  When you are "about" one thing, you can attract a consistent readership that shares that particular interest.  Those of us that write about multiple topics risk boring our readers that are not interested in all of the same things we are...and what are the chances that someone is going to have 100% of the same interests/challenges/opinions/passions that I do? My journal is like yours.  I've got political opinions. I've also got my little personal daily dramas which unfortunately don't follow a neat storyline.   Anyway, hang in there. I have often had similar thoughts to yours.

  7. I read you often.  I comment seldom primarily because I dont always agree with you.  Although dissenting opinion is often great conversation it is difficult to do that in the small comment section.  But isn't that what makes life interesting and funcitonal.  If we were all alike and all of the same opionion life would be very dull and non-inspiring.  I really enjoy your journal and the journal of hope555.  You two ladies write well and inspire, entertaining new thoughts.  It's sad to think that people would leave just because 'all' others don't agree with them.  Pennie  

  8. I read all the comments before writing this.  I too have noticed the loss of many good journals in AOl-J Land.  I understand there is a multitude of reasons why.  The community at the beginning was so much FUN and that has changed drastically.  Remember the second awards and all the ruckus that stirred up? I know I spend way too much time reading the journals.  I use to read a book a week (at least), now it is a book a month.  I sometimes wonder if I have lost my mind.....but, I find inspiration and encouragement and thought provoking entries throughout this community.  I for one will continue to write because it is a good outlet for me.  I agree with Karen, but I am not as brave as her regarding the removal of the comments and the hit meter. I'm shallow. lol.  I rarely comment on your political entries, but I read them and I learn from them.  I have loved watching you grow as a writer here.

  9. Lisa, I think you have a wonderful balance of things here. You write what is on your mind, whether it be your family, your work, or your political thoughts. I try to do the same thing. I think I write to honor my inner voice, to alleviate my worries, to document my life and thoughts for my daughter, should she ever be curious. It doesn't all have to be rocket science.
    PS: I thought of you today---I was out in the woods with Maggie & we saw the first goldfinch I've seen here. Did your little guys ever come back in full force?

  10. I just wrote about hanging up the journaling hat....and I see others cut back nailed it on the head when you mentioned us east coasters coming out of hibernation after an [exceptionally] long winter.  That's why I'm online less these days.  I also wonder if the excitement of journaling/commenting is wearing off for some?  First and foremost, journaling should be done for ourselves.  Not an audience...without worrying too much if others read.  or not.  great entry.


  11. I took a month long break.
    not to leave entirely, but to adjust
    my priorities.  I  had been journaling non-stop
    for over a year, just like a job. I wanted a vacation.

    and now I am back, and glad I am. :)

    though most of my entries would be considered fluff and stuff
    about my kids and my life.  I can't get too personal, which is irking to
    me.  But, I have a husband who knows of my journal and has one of
    his own.

    so, you know...
    I just do my thing....and enjoy it.
    great J. :)

  12. You write about politics and I'll write about religion, and we'll both write about everything else that strikes our fancy.  My monitor died last weekend, and I didn't get my new one installed until very early yesterday morning when I had over 500 emails.  Most of them were alerts.  I realized I'd gone too far. I got and gave more to the community when it was smaller and felt less like than obligation than a joy.  My enforced break from journalling helped me get a good perspective on what I get from it and on some changes I need to make.

  13. I write where and when I want to.  However, I stopped AOL because I no longer wanted to be part of the “collective” mentality, nor be responsible for it.  I respect and admire a handful of journals, and it is known by my comments (you are one).  But I stopped journaling here because many people are too hypocritical when they have a screen to hide behind, they complain about the very thing that they do.  I read a journal by chance the other day that has fairytale, I mean fairytale stories, and she has the nerve to have a link to a disclaimer saying that there is a strong possibility that it is all embellished.  In other words, she is saying, “I am lying, and I am proud of it, and I do not care if you are ‘real’ people believing it, I take no community responsibility for lying.”  It is her prerogative but what I have a problem with (and at times fun with) are readers who conclude what a journaler decides to discuss is indicative of who they are wholly.  I did not want to be private because I did not want to be private, I wanted the community in, yet I could not tolerate the idiocy of the public readership in my face.  I think the sole pet peeve is the average person’s inability to read and not discriminate when he or she is inferring or projecting his or her self in someone’s words.  It is insane.  Add all that in with a person in the very community (if that is a real word) contacting people in my real life and giving them my new journal name, it simply is not worth it.  Especially when they only dislike me because my words make them uncomfortable.  What about looking at why my words make that person uncomfortable.  I just do not do well in “fake” arenas or arenas where LOL and ROTFL and that is so cute, and you are sweet is upheld over a sincere heart.

  14. I think you nailed it on the head with this statement: "Perhaps I just measure the worth of journal land with a different scale than everyone else uses."

    Each of us must define our experience for ourselves. And, like with any vital and flourishing community in the "real" world, this cyber community will grow and change. The level of commitment (and even topics) will progress along a continuum. There will be those who are surfacey and their will be those who are "hard-corers." Individuals will even travel along the continuum at different times in their lives. Without change and differences a community becomes stagnant and dies.

    You seem to be the type who doesn't like drastic change and perhaps that is what is bothering you so much. I've learned to embrace the moment; it makes change a bit more bearable, then relish the memories when the moments are gone.

    There is a tremendous amount of journalers out their and even more throughout the blog-o-phere. Go exploring Lisa. Find what you are looking for. It's out there.

    :-) ---Robbie

  15. Lisa,

    Great post. I was a bit discouraged by our fellow journalers words, too. But like you said, we each value this medium in different ways. Everyone seems to have the 'forumula' for a sucessful journal. Some people say you have to post often, even daily. I've also heard it's best to find a theme and stick to it. My journal is my space to share my thoughts, my views, and whatever crosses my mind that I think needs to be discussed. I go back and forth from religion to politics and into history on occassion. And I share many personal experiences. Theme?  Some months I have posted over 40 entries. Others I've posted only a handful.  My point?

    LOL...let's continue to have fun. The community will continue to change but there is a core group here that has stayed pretty consistent over time. I'm sure each of us will find times when we need to take a break. But those of us who do stay for the long run have a need to continue writing.


  16. boy I spend the last week wallowing in self pity and sure missed a lot.....

    don't leave me....


  17. You wrote about it so well..   I think the reasons people leave are as varied as the individuals doing the writing in the first place.  I know why I left.  I was sick; I just couldn't keep up with it any more.  It was stressing me out.  

    To be honest, I'm not at all surprised that lots of people have gone.  Most especially the ones who were reading a gazillion journals and spending lots of time creating graphics and fancy-schmancy things for their own.  I read about people who were not sleeping at night because they were up reading blogs.  I really think it can turn into some kind of compulsive or addictive behavior for folks susceptible to that type of thing.

    I don't suppose it's considered all that strange if someone stays up until 3am reading a book.  But what if you did it all the time, and your work and personal life started suffering as a result?  I'm not saying this was my particular reason for leaving.  I just know how much some people were into it, (journal-land, that is,) and I just knew that no one could keep up that level of intensity indefinitely.

    I think the reason your have such endurance in journal-land is because you just write comfortably.  I'm not saying you don't write good stuff, because you definitely do!  But it seems like you write in an informal manner, and you don't worry about uploading tons of graphics that make it where no one can even get your journal to open without waiting 10 minutes.  You just write from your heart, when you feel like it.  And you probably only read journals from a few select people, not ten million.  It's easy to see why one could make time for that, especially if they don't have a full-time job and young kids at home, (although I realize you do have a job now!)

    But I tell ya...  you probably know as well as I do that journaling can become a completely time-consuming thing.  I think lots of people

  18. Oh, another thing Lisa.  I never commented much on the political things.  I am most definitely liberal in many respects, but kind of uninformed on current events.  I know where I stand on broad topics such as crime, death penalty, poverty, etc.  But when one starts talking about specialized things, I'm woefully unaware of the details necessary to have anything intelligent to comment.  

    I enjoy political and religious discussions when people aren't getting angry.  But I enjoy the former in more general terms.  It's not that I ever thought you should stop writing about politics.  I think you should write whatever's in your heart.  It's enjoyable to see someone write for the love of it, not to show off what they can do. :-)

  19. oooo ouch I feel thoroughly chastised.  I know you are not singling out any one blogger though...but I have to say you are right....absolutely.  I started my journal out to open up and I took a breather when I started wearing the mask again...It was a cowardly act on my part...and frankly a bit lazy.  Honesty hurts....LOL